Fiction

Henry Leslie-O'Neill

Luca Robinson fell apart exactly one minute after coming inside a girl called Flo. She was his girlfriend, I guess. Here’s a more detailed account of what happened:

60s    -    Luca comes. Flo does too, maybe. He always found it hard to tell.

56s    -    He flops on top of Flo. His heartbeat slows down. His feet tingle and he can feel her breasts squashed between their ribcages.

48s    -    He gets up, gets about cleaning and, you know, let’s not get too detailed.

33s    -    He rolls back under the covers. Flo puts her head on his arm and turns her body against his.

20s    -    The white ceiling sparkles with faint, colourful fractals in Luca’s eyes, out of ecstasy or low blood pressure or whatever. His heart speeds up again.

9s      -    ‘Hey,’ he says, as a kind of mic check for his voice-box. Flo looks up at him from the nook of his neck.

5s      -    Luca’s heart beats and thuds against his ribs and he says, ‘Hey,’ again, then his heart thumps and pounds and he says, ‘I love you.’

0s      -    Luca falls apart.

It was pretty clean. Cleaner than you’d expect a falling apart, a bodily explosion, to be. There was no blood. Well, there was a little, but less than you’d think. First thing is his head popped off. It dented the bed frame and rolled off into the corner of the room. Next, that throbbing heart of his came bouncing through the hole that his head left and jumped around the room, leaving light pink splotches on the walls, floor, and ceiling. Then each limb ejected clean from its joint, one after the other. His right arm, being trapped under Flo’s head, couldn’t move but instead the force pushed Luca’s lonely torso just enough for it to slide off her single bed and flop onto the floor. So by 5:45pm, on the sixteenth of May, 2017, Luca Robinson had fallen completely apart. He had been crumbling for months, the coroner would say, there was nothing to be done about it. Luca disagreed. There was definitely something to be done about it. See, Luca hadn’t fallen apart at all: he was finally beginning to fall together.

I guess this story starts around the middle of the twenty-first century. Call it 2060, that sounds like a good year. Starting any earlier, like in 2090 or 8040, would be a waste of time. 2060: Luca’s atoms had found each other and were slowly starting to compose themselves. He spent the preceding decades lying down. Kind of lazy, but forgivable given the difficulty of standing or even sitting up with a thick layer of oak above his nose and six feet of soil above that. Then, one day, he was dug up, driven to a morgue, taken out of his box, driven to his girlfriend’s house, and put down part by part all over her bedroom. There he lay for a few hours until 5:45pm, on the sixteenth of May, 2017, when a pretty girl called Flo came in, broke out in tears, told him she loved him too, and pieced him back together.

 

They stood up from the bed while making out. Then they turned the lights on and got dressed. Flo wore Blundstones with golden socks to match her sheer, embroidered crop top, chessboard patterned three-quarter length pants, and earrings in the shape of pizza slices. Luca put on his jeans and a blue shirt, or maybe it was the white one that day.

 

Standing up hurt. Everything hurt, not that this was surprising for someone who had just fallen together. While Flo sat down to pull on her boots, Luca examined her bedroom. Crocheted bunting swept across the walls, leading Luca’s eyes from glossy photos of days at the jetty, postcards and post-it-note lists pinned to a corkboard, a collage of torn out pages from National Geographic, and a shelf with as many books piled on top as there were books in their intended rows. Finally, he came to the window. They were high in the air. He could see everything. The elevator, the shops, the pit. It was all out there ahead of him. 

 

He turned around, looked at Flo’s back. He could see her bra strap through her shirt. His fingers dangled loosely and stung. He thought of Flo wading in a rockpool, telling stories about shells to some kids; her rolled up jeans were soaked. His hip scraped like it maybe wasn’t installed correctly. He thought of her waking up before the sun to have toast and tea on a frost-sprinkled deck. His left shoulder was hanging out of its socket. He thought of her doing the crossword in the passenger seat of their car.

 

But then Flo stood up and looked at him and walked into the elevator and he followed because there was only one other way to leave, and the elevator was surely more spacious. In the elevator, an LED panel above the door spelt out ‘Flo’s Room’ in glowing dots. The doors closed and it was quiet. Quiet enough to hear birds chirping.

 

     ‘Here we are,’ said Flo. 

The elevator was spherical. It didn’t make a lot of structural sense, engineering-ly, but Luca liked it because after sitting for a while they both naturally slid towards the centre and the side of Flo’s butt was pressing up against the side of his. The elevator dinged triumphantly and began falling, fast. A hum came from the little speaker below the LED, gradually getting lower in pitch.

The inside of the elevator was painted in a mural of the outback. At the bottom, where they slept, was a little dam. There were animals, sheep and kangaroos and zebras and flamingos, drinking from the dam. Behind them loomed a blue, mountainous horizon and a cloudless sky. Birds flew around the painting, chirping. The dam dampened their butts.

They fell like this for weeks, maybe months. The hum turned into distinct dings, the birds flew slower, chirped lower. This elevator had an ensuite and a fully-stocked kitchen, so they weren’t worried about the time. They spent most of it making coffee and cuddling and watching the mural-flowers bloom and then shrink and sink into the earth. Luca felt in his stomach the deceleration. His fingers hurt. He sometimes worried about how much he ached, but he felt like the pain was going away and mostly he just thought about coffee and cuddling and blooms.

In a cupboard in the kitchen was an instrument. It was kind of like a tuba, but also kind of like a harp. Luca was confused and tried not to think about it too hard. One day, he dragged it out to the dam. He put his arm around Flo and they made out, and then she looked at him and they blushed and he looked away from her and she kissed him on the cheek.

     ‘That was a beautiful song,’ she told him, so he started playing a song. It was a crappy melody, but Flo hummed a bassline and the elevator kept the beat and the birds were harmonising, so it sounded okay. It went something like this:

                     I like like you, I think you’re cool,     

                     Other people I’ve met have been cruel.     

                     You make me feel happy, you make me feel tall,     

                     I don’t want to leave here ever, at all.

And then it droned on with more average lyrics until Flo stopped humming and the birds went to sleep. Luca kept plucking to the ever-slowing beat of elevator dings. His fingers felt better with every note. He and Flo didn’t kiss anymore after that.

Flo bounded out of the elevator when it finally dinged onto the ground floor. Luca grabbed the tuba-harp, but the ridiculous instrument barely budged. He squatted down and wrapped his arms around it. He imagined himself hugging one of those big Baboa trees, or Boabob, or whatever they’re called. Lifting with the legs, though he’d never really understood what that meant, Luca hoisted the instrument and staggered after Flo.

Judging from the rows of shelves and the checkouts, Luca guessed they were in a supermarket. He couldn’t be sure, though, due to the inexplicable presence of a jumping castle, a silent disco, and what he could only deduce to be an upside-down rock climbing tutorial. He put the tuba-harp on the checkout treadmill where Flo was waiting. The crick in his hip vanished. The cashier, who was on a treadmill of his own, opened the register and gave Flo twelve dollars eighty.      

     ‘That’ll be twelve dollars eighty,’ he said. Then he scanned the instrument and gave it to Flo to put on a shelf. Flo carried it with one hand, like it barely weighed as much as a Bobao seed.

      ‘Hi, how are you?’ the cashier continued. 

Every aisle in this place played a different genre of music. From Aisle One (cheese and yoghurts), which was filled with the gentle sounds of classical lute, to the bizarre mash-up of hi-tech and surround sound recordings of interpretive dance in Aisle Eighty-Six (fireworks, guns, and other party supplies). As they skipped towards Aisle Twenty-Four (ridiculous instruments, tinned food, and tinned tupperware), the backs of their hands sometimes brushed against one another. Luca was a big fan of this.

Outside — after sliding up the slippery-dip, spinning through the revolving door, and prying open the sliding door — a breeze washed over their faces.

     ‘Come on, I’ve got to do some shopping,’ said Flo, when they came to the edge of the pit. She shook Luca’s shoulder and it clicked back into position. He didn’t notice. He was gazing across the land, this beautiful world of hers. There were trees everywhere, and they all had fruit, and there were seagulls and butterflies and golden retrievers bounding and fluttering and flying all around. It stretched out so far. Further than Luca would ever see in the pit. 

Luca gazed at Flo, standing there shining in the sun. One thought bounced around his brain, overriding all other thoughts: she is really, really truly pretty. He didn’t say that, of course. He just said ‘Hi’ a couple more times like an idiot. She smiled and giggled and Luca squeezed his eyes shut to protect them from the light. He stood there for another moment soaking in her presence, picturing her in front of him, then knelt down, hung off the rim of his pit and grabbed onto the rope. Flo started lowering him down.

The pit was pretty deep and pretty dark, but it wasn’t awful or anything. There was power, and lamps, and TV and corner stores and lollies, and friends and family, and there were even a few golden retrievers down there somewhere. Not the worst place to spend the remaining twenty or so years of his life. Luca watched all this as he descended. His shoulder didn’t hurt anymore. Nothing hurt anymore, he realised. That was good. When he landed he looked up at Flo.

     ‘Where are we going?’ he shouted, but Flo was already pulling the rope away. ‘Can’t complain, I guess,’ he said.

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